It’s not the first time in recent memory that the Lakers have had instant purchase remorse over a high-priced NBA veteran. In 2016, then-general manager Mitch Kupchak signed Luol Deng to a four-year, $72 million deal.
The deal was a disaster. Deng’s best basketball was behind him, the contract was an albatross. The Lakers opted to waive and extend Deng’s contract in 2018 to mitigate the impact on their salary cap. They could take a similar approach with Russell Westbrook this summer.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Westbrook had expressed interest in playing elsewhere next season. For that to happen, waiving and using the stretch provision is one possible avenue the Lakers could explore.
Laundress reports Eric Pincus explained what it would look like. Pincus also talked about how Deng could play a small role in the Lakers’ decision.
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“In theory, the Lakers could look to waive and extend Westbrook’s remaining salary after the three-season buyout ($12.3-14.7 million per year). However, the franchise is finally coming out of the $5.0 million dollars per year she has paid Luol Deng since he waived her in 2018.”
It’s not an ideal scenario, but neither is peddling a 33-year-old guard who owed more than $47 million next year. If the Lakers are determined to get rid of Westbrook, they should probably grease the wheels with one, if not both, of their future first-round picks (2027 and 2029). It’s a high cost of doing business.
The third option, which is about as likely as majority owner Jeanie Buss selling the team this summer, is for the Lakers to forfeit Westbrook and eat the $47 million this year. This would be the shotgun approach instead of the longer term waiver and stretch option.
But, at this point, isn’t it worth keeping Westbrook? He’s still worth it, but not $47 million worth. It’s also hard to believe that LeBron would accept the Lakers wasting a third of their salary cap just to get Russ out of town.
The Lakers have a big offseason ahead of them after one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history. Figuring out what to do with Westbrook will be the number one priority.